Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Journey

I choose the trail carefully for the day's walk. Completely sure that I'll be alone, for solitude in nature is often necessary for me. I begin, assured of my way and set off through the woods for the short walk to the trail. This trail is more dangerous than others I travel. For now, I have more to lose. The vulnerabilities from the past put me in the way of greater harm.

After a time, I realize that the mountain's whispers of encouragement have stopped. I pause and look around, convinced I'm in the right place, but the trail has faded. Again, I hear the voice of the Smoky Mountains. The whispers have grown urgent, "Turn around.... now." For once, I ignore the whispers. Instead, I follow past trails, faint outlines, old ways.. believing the results will be the same .This land will not force me to do as I should, but gives warning signs all around -The trail was more worn than this- This isn't the direction you were headed in on the previous hike-

At last, I pay attention to what the Smokies are telling me. I know distractions have caused me to veer off the course that I set out on. I turn and carefully make my way back. I leave the area I am in. With the guidance of the mountain, I reach the trail that I entered this wilderness for. I head down the path, this time paying much more attention to my surroundings.

I've regained the respect for the dangers that are held, along with the beauty, in this wonderful place. These mountains have no intention of harm, but with a single moment of disrespect... disasters can happen.

I come upon a fork in the trail. I know what one way holds... a easy walk, safety. The other.. a harder journey, greater risks and hazards. I take my choices into consideration. The path of least resistance or the way that I know will be much more treacherous. Following my heart, I choose the harder trail. This trail is steeper, harsh, strewn with roots and boulders. The path is lined with a rock wall to my right and a drop to my left. The twists and turns on the trail take me higher and higher. The fatigue begins to set in.

I reach three small waterways I must ford. This time, the mountains whispers encourage me forward. They know that I'm taking more time, treating them with the care that had been lacking in my actions recently. I've now entered areas of extreme danger, where a misstep could result in a horrible fall. Some spots have become so dark, so dim, that even the air carries the scent of danger. I continue.. knowing that with my carefulness, the dangers are worth what awaits me. I move ahead, but not before I take time to absorb the beauty that is already evident. The delicacy of lavender flower petals, the dim of the air, the glint of waters far below... all promises of rewards.

Others have entered the heart of this land for many different reasons, but none have ever entered with the such love, such a connection. These experiences in the mountains are mine alone. The magic that exists between the Smoky Mountains and myself move me in ways that I thought were impossible.

Still, I'm aware of the hazards. Eerie sounds from the woods grab my attention. I understand what they may be and proceed with caution. I am amazed that danger and serenity coexist here. Such, are some of the greatest experiences in life. My faith lies in what awaits me.

I am sure, now, that the mistakes made at the beginning of this journey will not happen again, as long as I treat the mountains with the respect owed them. I know, to where I turn when problems become greater than I can bear. To these mountains, I run. The comfort is ever present.
The whispers heard, the caress of gentle breezes on my cheek, the care, are for me, only.

At last, I reach my destination, the end of this awesome, yet dangerous trek. I have been rewarded for my new found understanding of this beautiful land. The beauty, the solace that I sought, have been found. The love returned ~ The journey was worth it all ~

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Secret Garden Revisited

I choose the Secret Garden. A place with such meaning, a sacred place, a healing place. A place visited by my shadow and I.

Reserved in my heart for special times such as these, I haven't visited since winter. Now, wild and untamed, the undergrowth crowds close to the trail. I may pass a bear within inches, yet never know.

I make my way to the stream, the same stream that my shadow held my hand as I crossed. The water is so low this time, I am able to make it across easily, stone by stone. No need for my shadow's guidance this time.

The trail has become little more than a footpath. The contrast of the red leaf upon gray trees... now gone. The labyrinth of limbs has become one of jade. I make my way through this labyrinth and down the steep path, where my shadow and I had moved carefully.

I reach the place, where the creek I'm walking beside splits, rushing down either side of me. I find the rock and take a seat. As the water spills by, I study the currents. These waters still hold the same mystery.

I am spellbound by the spirit of this place. This fork in the stream, this rock I on which I sit, even the tree at water's edge holds meaning. The solace from times gone by washes over me as water does over the stones nearby.

I am flooded with memories, while living in this moment. Pleasure fills my thoughts, surety fills my mind, sacred times flood my heart.

I lose myself in my surroundings. I am alone in this beautiful land, yet I am not alone. For my shadow, once again, is with me.

Rising to leave, my heart is full. My shadow and I .. no longer closer than ever before because now... We are one.





My Shadow

~ This is a walk taken during the winter at my Secret Garden in the Smoky Mountains. At the time this walk was given by tweet. I would, once again, like to share this special time ~



~ My shadow is the only one to walk with me ~

~ My shadow looks closely as I point out the labyrinth of tangled tree limbs profiled against the sky ~

~ My shadow worries as blood trickles down my arm where caught on briars moments before~

~ My shadow and I appreciate the contrast of a red leaf against gray trees ~

~ My shadow holds my hand as I find a way across the rain swollen creek ~

~ My shadow and I share a rock where the creek splits into separate branches ~

~ My shadow listens as I explain the mystery clear pools of water hold for me~

~ My shadow watches as I run fingertips through the water, enjoying the silk like smoothness~

~ My shadow and I meld into one, in the dim shade of the trees ~

~ My shadow is pleased at the beauty and the vision I shared today ~

~ My shadow and I leave the woods closer than ever before ~




Friday, July 16, 2010

The Ghost Remains

As night closes in, the call of the mountains begins in earnest and she responds. As she nears, the whispers begin. The lands hear her. In hushed tones, they reply, "Yes, we await". The skies darken, once again, replicating her mood.

They prepare for her arrival. With the first step, the rainfall begins. Soon, her skin is dampened. She moves forward knowing they have, once again, read her heart. As the rain intensifies, clothes become soaked. The physical melts away and only the ghost remains.

~ Alone again ~ she accepts ~ for solitude is ~ when she is at her best ~

The ghost floats through the low light as mist swirls about. The dark embrace of the mountain holds her close. It's spirit caresses her soul. It's voice, speaking through the roll of thunder, hugs the curves of the land and touches deep within.

With each move, darkness closes in. Moving forward into places most would not dare go, the ghost believes the spirit would allow no harm to come. For it is part of her. She understands it and it her.

Adrift, in this darkness, all others have departed. Only the spirit of the mountain remains. The ghost accepts this truth.

The spirit speaks to the ghost, whispering, "Courage now." The ghost hears, yet remains silent. No words are needed, for the spirit and the ghost are intertwined. They are one.

They are her strength. Understanding this, she lets go and disappears into the dark.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Wonder of Child

Wide eyed with wonder, she approaches the trail. The path is covered in wet fallen leaves. The air is filled with the scent of rain dampened earth. She breathes in deeply.
The soft rain mixes with the warmth to create a fine mist over the water. Such mystery. Standing, watching the stream, the appeal to enter the water and play is strong. She resists the temptation and moves on.
She searches the mountain hillsides crowding the trail, wondering if she'll see a bear... hoping. She pretends for a bit that she is in a rainforest. With the warm moist air, greenery, sound of soft rainfall and call of birds, it doesn't take much to imagine.
Carefully, she avoids the mud, but her eyes twinkle when she sees a clear pool of water in the trail. Without a second thought, she jumps in with both feet, laughing as the spray soaks her. Her skin and clothes are now soaked by the rainfall and her hair has become damp tendrils curled about her face.
The sun breaks through, making raindrops glisten like diamonds on the leaves. She has become lost in this fairytale landscape. Before the mountains, she never knew that magic really existed.
As quickly as the sun came, the trail dims again. She's startled by the noise of what sounds like a large animal moving through the trailside woods. Her heart races, but curiosity and an adventurous spirit wins and she moves on.
The trail splits three ways, two named trails and one unnamed trail. Of course, she chooses the unnamed trail. Carefully, making her way down this new trail that has become a creek bed in the rain. Her shoes are almost completely covered in mud now, but oh such fun!
She jumps as the sound of rustling leaves accelerates into a massive crash nearby. A tree, falling from the soft rain soaked ground, lands nearby. While the crash is startling, the thrill is undeniable.
Alone, wishing for a trail of bread crumbs to leave, she is fully immersed in the fairytale. After a time, she stops to rest on a fallen tree that is lying across the trail. Her gaze settles on a single leaf. She watches, entranced by it's tremble each time a raindrop lands on it. The mountains are filled with such tiny miracles missed, unless at times, we slow to become as a child.
Rising to leave, she looks around one more time and smiles. Thankful for this playground that she believes her Father created just with her in mind.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Promise of Peace

Today, I go to the mountains looking for the peace that I know is waiting. I am ready. It has been promised.

The temperature is perfect for this walk. Translucent waters tumble around the trail side stream. I hear the melody of the birds. I am drawn to the luminous green of the lichen against tree trunks. Running tips of fingers over the tiny forest, enjoying the feel.

The skies have grown dim, since an evening storm is approaching. A stillness settles over the land. My footsteps along the trail have even grown silent in awe of this tranquility. I am mystified at how profound the silence is.

The creek has become very low. I make my way onto a gray slab of rock in the middle of the water that has been exposed, watching tiny fish dart here and there. Soon, I rejoin the trail.

The wind has began to murmur through the treetops. This is the only place that I have been able to observe sound. I watch this sound move toward me, the rustle of the leaves soothing.

Moving along, the sight of lavender buds painted against jade on a gray tree trunk are pleasing to the senses. The grooves on the tree trunk beg me to run my hands down it's texture.

My pace slows even further. Roots emerge from the middle of the trail. I try to find the tree that they lead to, but am unsure. I study the hill to my left and gaze down into the dell on my right, afraid I will miss a miracle.

The curve in the trail ahead draws me with the mystery of what lies around the bend, even though I have traveled this trail many times. The scent of a splintered tree trunk reaches me. I am enjoying this solitude so.

The sky has become eerily dark. The stillness much more present now than before. Raindrops began to kiss my skin. The rush of wind has become my steady companion. In this rush, I hear the mountain murmuring that it is time for me to go, before it becomes unsafe. Heeding it's warning, I turn away, but not before whispering ~ thank you ~ for the protection and peace that is has graced me with this day.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Searching for Solitude

As is usual, when she enters her sanctuary, she is alone. This time, the atmosphere replicates her mood. The skies are turbulent. Rain soaked trees appear as furious slashes in the dim air. The green of the leaves are of a deep shade, a shade found only in the darkest of imaginations.
Today, she is here, not for fun, adventure or beauty. She came for the solitude. Knowing what she is here for, the mountains do not attempt to offer peace. Instead, they weep with her. Her cheeks are smudged with the tears of the Smokies. Skin dampened, she hugs her arms to her body as the chill deepens.
Carefully, she makes her way down the rock strewn path. Knowing that one misstep could produce even more pain. Coming upon the creek, she stops short. The stepping stones that she had previously used are now underwater. She walks the bank, searching for a way to get to the other side. She realizes that she is at a dead end. Her way is blocked. She turns around and finds another path. Heading down it, she hopes for the same solitude.
The forest is dark and foreboding. Silence reigns, save for the steady drumbeat of the rain. She begins the climb she has reached. The path disappears as it makes a turn ahead. She is left wondering where it will take her, what lies ahead.
In the distance, she hears a whisper rapidly becoming a roar. Lifting her eyes, she sees treetops ahead begin to stir. Closer and closer, it moves. She follows the path of the coming wind, knowing that heavier rain is coming with it, but is helpless to stop it. It makes it's way to her, drenching her, then moving on.
She stops midtrail and makes a slow turn. Everywhere she looks, she sees the tangle of downed trees from a prior windstorm. Upturned, splintered roots, giants fallen, yet there is still a grace in this chaos.
Through the gloom, the soft lavender of trailside flowers glow. Boulders in the path are surrounded by ferns in delicate shades of green. The mountain treasure is revealed, even in the darkness. Subtle beauty is offered, not as cheer , but as comfort. Letting her know, when she is ready, it awaits.
For the mountain knows that at these times, she does not need to be told that it will get better. She simply needs it to be there, to listen, to understand . Today, they listened.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Darkness and Light

alone
bright sunlight ~ dim shadows
blue skies ~ looming mountain
warmth on back ~ chill on wind
birds chirp ~ unidentified sound
stroll through the woods ~ arduous climb
alone
pale green leaf ~ dead tree trunk
peace beckons ~ danger screams
vivid yellow stripe ~ black velvet wing
delicate purple flower ~ jagged rock
alone
crystal waters ~ tangled root
sunlit path ~ slip produce death
yellow bud ~ steep cliff
serenity solitude ~ farther farther
trickle of stream ~ miles onto mountain
scattered gray pebble ~ clutch of outstretched limb
brilliance of nature ~ darkness of cove
Truly Alone

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Eden's Touch

Upon entering Eden, she's greeted with a calming presence. Moving down the pathway, the whirlpools of jade beckon to her. She stops, transfixed by the swirling waters. It is a reminder of how her spirit has been tossed. Unlike her spirit, this has a soothing effect.
Moving on, she searches for a seat. She finds the perfect rock over the water. Stepping carefully between boulders, she reaches it and sits. Bare feet dip into icy water. Her breath is taken by it. Sitting still, the cool breeze caresses her cheek. She enjoys it's touch... the touch within her spirit. Slowly, peace floods her soul.
Her eyes search the pathway of the flow. She watches it make it's way between the stones blocking it's path. Nothing will stop it from making it's endless journey. Chills ripple through her body as skin, once again, skims the surface of the water below. Exotic spills rush by taking away the cares. She's needed this so.
Surrounded by mountains on all sides, she relishes their embrace. The solitude is a safe place, a healing refuge. Skin begins to warm as sunlight makes it's way through the trees to light the dim of the cove. Sounds of the cascades nearby, the roar fills the small space.
As if by magic, she's forgotten recent troubles. As the rush of the water below washes the rocks, so does the touch of Eden cleanse her soul. Serene now, she closes her eyes. She knows she will be okay, for she is not alone.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Seeking Adventure

I felt a sense of happiness and fun before ever leaving home to come to the mountains today. After having been trapped indoors all week in training, I'm ready to spend some time outdoors.
As always, being here in the mountains, is a balm to my soul. Today, though, feels a little different. With the good mood that I brought, I feel adventurous. A ways into the trail, I spot the fallen tree across the creek again. As soon as my eyes land on it, I know. After resisting so many times, I know what will happen. With a smile and a childlike thrill, I jump onto what has become my bridge across the creek.
With arms outstretched, I head across. Finally, doing what I was tempted to do all winter. Step after careful step, I make it to the other side! Yay! Now, to make it back.. Hopping on again, braver this time, I walk back across. I jump off with the happiness of doing what I had wanted for so long :-)
I begin to feel the rain sprinkling lightly. With the darkening skies, the sound of the wind overhead becomes foreboding. Exactly what I came for. I love all moods of the Smokies.
I leave the main trail for an unnamed trail. It is narrow and shaded. The feeling of excitement builds. The smile hasn't left my face since starting out. I come across a massive tree that has fallen and takes up the trail for a good ways. I must leave the trail and go downhill to get around. At the bottom, I skirt a bog. I make my way back up the hill to the trail.
At this point, the wind is roaring like a freight train. I feel such anticipation as the trail closes in around me, trees crowding close. My ears are tuned to the forest. Especially after a recent conversation with a friend about wild boar in the Smokies. This has undoubtedly become the adventure that I set out for.
Soon after the trail breaks free into a clearing with short trees that curve and coil like snakes. I feel I've entered a fantastic world where animals and rocks should talk. I move on in this world that I have found. The smile grows wider.
Yet again, I hear the cracking from above. My steps slow as I peer upward. So many trees sway in the wind.
I've come so far into this wonderland without being prepared, that I know I should turn around. I'm not ready to resist the magnetic hold it has on me yet. I come to a spot where the trail splits. To the right it is so faint, you could lose your way. To the left, you must traverse fallen limbs to make it across. I choose the left.
Stopping short..What was that noise!? A squeal. Definitely an animal, I'm just not sure what kind. Added to this, I hear the creaking of a tree immediately behind and the groaning of one ahead. Once again, I hear the sounds of the animal. It could be the young. Knowing it wouldn't be wise to near a mother and babies of any sort, I take the fainter trail.
Too soon, this trail ends at another creek. I backtrack. I stop at the first trail again, contemplating going on. Hearing the sound again, combined with the massive tree swaying nearby, convinces me that I've pushed my luck. I've been here much longer than anticipated and gone much further than I planned.
I stop to rest on a small fallen tree, before I make my way back out. Around the massive tree, down the hill, near the bog, I walk.
I soon reach the first trail. The wind is still strong. Not far ahead, I hear a massive crash. Out here, in this wind, there is only one thing it could be. The wind has won it's fight with the forest and a tree has fallen. I do not know what to expect when I round the curve. Almost hoping for another massive fallen tree, I see nothing. I'll never know what tree made the sound.
Brilliant sunlight breaks free of the clouds, blue skies peep through and the winds lessen. As if, the mountains are saying to me that they gave me the excitement I wanted. Now that I'm leaving, they can calm.
Today, as every other day that I come, the Smokies have blessed me with what I came for...a little adventure.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Kastalia of the Rivers

My name is Kastalia. For I am a water nymph, daughter of Lord Neraeos and Lady Ourania. I am a caretaker of the rivers. I was created for a purpose. That purpose being to tend the rivers of the Smokies.
I have come to partake of the solace of my favorite river. I make my way across a tiny stream in the hills. Beautiful, yet I move on. I know what awaits. I hear it's roar in the distance. It calls my name. I am of it. It is of me.
Dew from the heavens has begun to fall. It lands upon my bare shoulders, tracing it's way down my body. I step carefully across roots left for me by a mischievous wood nymph.
The river is now in sight. Oh, what it does to me! Gently, I tiptoe forward. I am close. My breath is taken by it's majesty.
The path downhill becomes treacherous, scattered with huge boulders. I can make it, for the river is my home. The moisture from the night has caused the river to rise. I make it to water's edge and breathe the essence deeply.
The flow, the rush of emerald water captivate me. Choosing a riverside stone, I sit. It is my duty as a river nymph to keep the waters pure. Yet, I do not see it as a duty. For I love the rivers of these mountains. Reaching down, with fingertips, I trace a path through the pool at my side.
Looking across, I see the gnarled roots of trees clinging to the banks. Thinking back to times that I have used these at seats, allowing my legs to be washed by the cascades below.
Wanting to visit more of the river, I make my way back uphill and down the riverside path. I am a keeper of this river, but all of nature speaks to me. The bark of the trees, the gray of a stone, the green of the foliage hold such an allure.
As I move along, the roar of the river is a beautiful aria being sung only for me. It's soothing notes reach deeply within and touch my soul. I tend the river, but it also tends me.
I move down each tiny path to visit the waters. I see my wood nymph friends frolicking through the trees. Not me, for I take my time relishing the sounds of the river, the feel of the falling rain. It continues to drift lazily down my skin. I take the moisture from my lips with a single touch, savoring the taste. I may be a keeper of the rivers, but all of the waters of the mountains are sacred to me. They were given to me by my father. For I am Kastalia, the river nymph.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Just for Fun

Feeling in a mischievous and bit of an energetic mood, I decide to go for a walk in the Smokies before the evening storms hit. I message a friend to let him know which of three trails I may choose. (Which would be the only safe thing that I did today) Somehow, I find myself on an entirely different trail than these altogether.
I choose a trail that I have not tried before. Something feels very familiar about the trail. Not far onto it, I pass backcountry hikers leaving. They are carrying so much gear that I began to look for their sherpa :) I am impressed because I couldn't make it to my mailbox carrying this amount of gear!
The temps are perfect for being here. The trail turns into a climb. I had to choose something with this incline today, just getting over an illness? The trail becomes muddy. I cling to the side of the hill, hanging onto tree after tree. I begin to channel Tarzan.
I feel the wind picking up from the approaching windstorm. I had told my friend that, as usual, if I heard the splintering of a tree my plan was to run.. in any direction. He said to stop and determine the tree, so I don't run under it. I say, "No, a moving target is harder to hit!" lol
I begin to sing, "I think I'm alone now. There doesn't seem to be anyone around", but am interrupted by the sound of a creaking tree. Not a pleasant sound with the wind blowing! I come across a tree that has fallen and is propped over the trail. I count to 3 and run under laughing.
Wait! I hear splintering. Grrr! As much as I want to run, I stand still and see a large tree swaying and creaking well away from the trail. I notice a massive vine hanging from another tree and am tempted to really play Tarzan. Considering the condition of the old tree, I think, "Not a bright idea." I begin to feel raindrops. Dark clouds are moving in. I've figured out what seems to familiar about the trail. It is a larger version of one of my favorite areas in the Smokies that I call "The Secret Garden".
Soon, I come upon a much wider stream crossing the trail. Walking up and down it, I search for a way across. I think to the walking stick that I left in the car. Not a good move. I hesitate, then head across anyway. I made it! It took balancing on fifteen rocks (yes, I counted) , but I made it. Yay me!
A third tree is leaning over the trail. 1.2.3 run! This trail looks like something in a foreign land. It reminds me of the first time I saw the Smokies. Thinking, "Hey, there are, actually, places that look like this outside of a calendar?" :))
I can't believe that I've made it this far. This isn't hard for others, but feeling as I do lately- it's Mt Everest. Maybe the B12 shot helped or I just had a really good night... I'm going with the night. :-))
With the rain becoming heavier, I decide that I have pushed my luck and turn around. As I leave, a high stack of stones catch my eye. I go uphill to investigate. I'm not sure what it is (maybe part of an old fireplace from a homestead?) but as I turn I see a large amount of black fur on the ground. Okay, I'm out of here! I'm thinking that it's not time for bear yet, but if I were a bear, this weather lately would've been too good to pass up! lol
Third downed tree passed, two more to go. I keep looking over my shoulder because the trail beckons me to come back. Well... that and I'm making sure the owner of the black fur is not behind me and hungry. I repeat to myself, "I am not a berry or a grub, I am not a berry or a grub!"
I make it back to the creek and across without falling in. The rain has become steady. I'm thankful that I turned around when I did. Second tree then last tree, I employ my method of safety for the last time and run under. Instead of braving the rest of the muddy trail, I decide to climb the hill and avoid the mud. Why didn't I think of this the first time?
Unfortunately, I know that I'm nearing the end of the trail. Rounding the curve, I see the parking area. I did it! I have beat the storm and have reached my goal, yet again today. That goal being.. just to have a little fun.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Strength Given, Strength Found

Having been sick for over two weeks, I had no plans to be on a Smokies trail anytime soon. Even so, I decide to take a late evening walk. I choose the easiest, flattest trail that comes to mind.
Still not feeling well, I slowly head down the trail, one foot in front of the other. A few short steps into it, I feel my spirits begin to lighten. The trickle of the creek, the rustle of what leaves there are, the crunch of the trail underfoot and the low hum of the wind cause a small smile to spread. Oh, how I have missed this!
I pause to study the flow of the stream. I would love to walk the few feet downhill to stand beside the it, but do not look forward to the effort it would take coming back uphill to the trail. So, I move on. My footsteps are very slow, but in taking my time, I find things that I had never noticed. Exactly the way the stream to my right shifts direction as it joins the bigger creek is but one.
As always, I find peace in the waters of my sanctuary. The water is so low right now that it must work to find it's way through the maze of boulders to flow. It shimmers in one spot as it flows in a thin layer over a low flat shelf of stone in the creek bed.
Feeling as I do, I turn around much sooner than I would have liked to. I see a tree lying on it's side. It has fallen next to the trail since I was here last. I hear a sound and recognize it as a woodpecker somewhere up the side of the mountain. All sights, sounds and sensations here work their usual magic on me. I am so glad I chose to come.
I see the trail snaking it's way toward the end. I am okay with that for I have found what I came for. The solace that my oasis offers. I gave the physical strength to make it today to spend time in my beautiful mountains. In turn, I walk away given the strength to my soul by the spirit of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Waters of Eden

arched stone bridge,
harbors treasure untold,
no name, no name, beauty so great,
emeralds, tumble and swirl,
underwater, burnett sways,
scores of bubbles, foam white pristine,
sound, ah but the sound,
cascades roar,
layer upon layer, falling, peaceful chaos,
collage, shapes sizes textures, river stones,
jade pools, serene between falls,
summer comes,
barefoot wading thrills,
tiny rocks, toes buried,
flowing, flowing, endless
icicles, bank roots decor
gibraltars rock, stream divided
ripples, slowly toward
fallen tree trunk,
tickled by currents of ice melt
it's twists, upturned roots
unfathomed by Picasso,
followed, springs fountain of youth,
my paradise
until Heaven
my Eden

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Shared Secrets

Having a little extra time, I decide to walk up Bote Mountain Trail. I seldom set out with a thought as to how the trail will make me feel on a certain day. Some trails, by their "personality" have a mood already set.
Bote Mountain Trail brings to mind the route that was used to reach Spence Field in the past by James Spence, but nature itself begins to override thoughts of history as I climb. On this hike, the splendor of the earth stands out. I begin to think of those who can't or haven't yet been able to come to the Smokies. Daily, I remind myself not to take for granted the blessing of living here. I think of those unable and wish to convey this beauty.
During my walk, there are still slight snow flurries, the snowflakes so small, as to be almost invisible. Rocky surfaces of the mountain peek from beneath the snow here and there. Snow, that has lain for several days now, pops and cracks loudly with each step, reverberating through the hills.
The rock face of the mountain wall beside me has crevices and fissures so deep, I could stick an arm in and have it disappear. Lichen, covering the rocks, is one of the few remaining greens out here. There are many fallen trees left from a recent windstorm. Several inches of snow line each one, creating an interesting aspect to the view.
I edge closely to the dropoff on my right, peering down through limbs to see the stream far below. As always, here in the Smokies, it is crystal clear. I can see the bed of the creek, even from where I stand.
I move on. A fallen tree lies across the path. I use the walking stick that I carry to steady my footing. I am thankful for it, especially with my feet slipping occasionally on the ice. The snow has melted somewhat and become hard packed. This has left a surface that I can glide my feet on, as if on skates. In other places, my feet sink deeply into the snow. My shoes and the hem of my pants are damp already.
I pick up a sound as I move along. Tilting my head, I see the stirring of the trees high above. It is the sound of the whisper wind moving through the firs. Looking up in this manner, leaves me feeling very small. I have never heard the mountain speak in this exact dialect.
With the winter trees and snow covered ground, I am in a monochrome world. The only color are the few splashes of green and the red mud where a bit of snow has melted.
Hearing a taptap resonating from the woods, I scan the trees. I find the source. A woodpecker is perched on the side of a tree. I now recognize the sound that I had heard on a previous hike. It appears that I have disturbed it, as it flies away.
Even though curve after curve in the trail had drawn me, I stop. I know that I have reached my limit. I stand still, listening to the sound of the mountain secrets being confessed on the breeze. My heart returns the confidence by letting go of my own. Knowing that here, I will never be rejected.
As I turn to leave, I pause. Facing me is an untouched snowbank. Respectfully, with my walking stick, I carefully carve the words "The Smokies Whisperer" into it.
Feeling that I have left my presence in this simple manner, I turn and walk away.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Smoky Mountain Love Story

This Valentine's Day, I spend with my love. I dress carefully in many layers, tugging on tobaggan and gloves. Yes, for Valentine's.. for my love is the Great Smoky Mountains. I fear with the weather, I will be rejected. Yet, as I approach, the gates stand open wide. I find the trail I seek and head down it's snow covered path.
As with any love, there are times when the going isn't easy. In these times, you must search for the beauty. The cold air, the frigid creek tumbling over rocks, the snow lined trees.. the mountain had dressed in it's finest for this day.
My love welcomes me. It delights to feel my steps crunching in fresh snow, while I enjoy the gentle caress of its cold air on my cheek. While most may be put off by the icy water, I slide my glove off, slipping fingertips through liquid crystal. I'm exhilerated by the feel. Breathing in the crisp air, I feel it through my body. Using tongue tip to capture snowflakes that land on lips, I feel alive. An awakening.
Tilting head from side to side, I study the mountains that rise on. I would love to explore. The mountain says to take what it offers.. a safe path through this wonderland. It becomes a climb. The mountains close around me, holding me in their embrace. Bending, I get a handful of powdery snow. Another climb, leaving my heart racing.. as any love should. By entering unmarred snow, I go places no one else has within its heart. Having reached as far as I dare go today, I turn around. The mountains understand that as my strength and courage grow, I will move further. For today, among hardships, with it's tenderness and beauty.. I have made progress.
Even with the chilly air, I remove the toboggan, so I hear the sweet nothings the mountain utters as I leave. With snow covered steep hills, it quietly warns me to be careful. It has given me the soft trickle of the stream to guide me out. I gaze longingly off the trail. Thousands of sagas are carved into this land. I appreciate the solitude. I appreciate it's sharing itself. It appreciates my acceptance in this barren time.
As I near the end of walk, I'm elated at the time spent. The mountains whisper, "Until next time." I smile softly and walk away.

Coming Home

I first came to the Smoky Mountains nine years ago in 2000. Upon arriving here, I knew that I had come home. The beauty of the Smokies captured my heart. The first trail I visited was Abram's Falls Trail in Cades Cove. Having never been an outdoors person or someone into sports, I was surprised by my immediate attraction to hiking. I began going to the mountain trails as much as possible, experiencing the "personality" each different trail had. I grew to love being there, it being the sole activity I wished to pursue.
After a time, health issues began to make it harder to do what I loved. The hikes became shorter and simpler. My last hike was the short, (what should have been a simple walk) to  Hen Wallow Falls. After struggling to hike this easy trail, I knew it was time to give up. As I drove home, I made the decision that it would be my last. Heartbroken, longing to be on a trail, I stopped going into the mountains.
Four years passed without a hike. This past year, August 2009, I decided that nothing, including how bad I felt, would keep me from what I loved. I began to get onto the trails, slowly but surely.
They have become my strength, my solace, my oasis, my escape, my Eden, my Secret Garden. The crystal clear waters, massive boulders, kaleidoscope of fall colors, snow covered grounds of winter, pale green of spring and warmth of a summer day there are medicine.
Above all, the very spirit of the Smokies, this collage of history and beauty of present form the soul that can be felt, if you only take the time to notice.